Oh, The Irony-Breastfeeding in Public

This week, a nursing mother said was harassed and was asked repeatedly to cover herself up, while nursing her 5 month old son, while on vacation at Elitch Gardens, in Denver.

Here is Kristin’s  account of the incident as she posted it on parenting Web site www.mothering.com:

Harassed at Elitch Gardens for public breastfeeding

I am on vacation with my family- 5 of us including mom and dad. We went to Elitch Gardens Theme Park in Denver, CO (Formerly Six Flags).  

I was nursing my 5 month old son by the side of the wave pool in the water park. I was in the section with the plastic lounge chairs where food is allowed, not right in the water. I was approached by a park security guard who told me that complaints had been made and that I would have to breastfeed elsewhere or cover up; go to the restrooms and nurse or use a towel.

I stated that by Colorado state law, I am allowed to breastfeed my child anywhere public or private that he is allowed to be. At this point another security guard got involved and was more adamant that I go elsewhere and it is just “common sense” to cover up or be elsewhere. I repeatedly stated colorado breastfeeding law and informed them that I was not going anywhere or covering up (he hates being covered up), could they please stop harassing me and let me feed my child. He stated they would kick me out of the park for this. I stated that I paid for the tickets and was not going anywhere as I was not breaking any posted park rules.

At this point my child was getting more and more upset because I was having a hard time focusing on holding him and helping him latch on properly. This conversation progressed until my son was screaming very loudly at the top of his lungs and I was visibly shaking and upset. I did start to get louder but managed to keep my temper despite my child crying. I did however start crying too and begged them to leave me be. They called a supervisor over to talk to me. At this point my husband had come back from playing with the other children in the wave pool and I asked him to back me up and keep them away from me so I could nurse my child as he was screaming. He proceeded to state them the same law repeatedly.

They then left me alone for a few minutes and returned shortly later with two Denver Police officers. I continued the basic same conversation with them and then let my husband talk to them, but the supervisor continued to harass me thro this entire thing. He kept stating it was “common sense” to do what he wanted me to do and I kept stating Colorado Law and stating that I had no such social taboo ingrained in me about breastfeeding in public and it was his personal opinion that it is common sense.

My husband kept trying to get them to stop talking to me so I could feed my child, and I was finally able to feed my child and he fell asleep. I then pulled my swimsuit back up and rocked him a bit. The Denver Police then informed me that if I breastfed in public in the park again, they would arrest me for trespassing as the park would want to kick me out. I politely told him to do what you have to do but I know my rights. I stayed in the water park section until the baby woke up and then left to try to enjoy the rest of the day away from the frightening guards. (as a note, it was the woman next to me who had complained and she proceeded to berate me for about 10 minutes. I repeatedly told her very calmly and politely “Thank you for your opinion. Have a nice day”, until she stopped talking to me.)

I am ashamed to admit that I did feed my child next in a more secluded part of the park later as I did not want to get arrested and ruin my family’s vacation, although it was still in a public area. It makes me shake and cry when I think of my treatment and how I had to hide just to feed my child. It made me feel like a criminal. I am going to look into suing the park so that others in the future will not be subjected to the same traumatizing ordeal. Maybe the park can setup some positive breastfeeding policy.

I will also be posting to a number of forums such as Mothering.com to inform others of my situation, maybe organize a boycott or nurse-in. Thank you for listening. I would appreciate any feedback you have or any info you have as to legal or other recourse that I may take that would be most effective in changing Elitch Gardens actions against breastfeeding in public.

Kristin Skrydlak-Simlai

 I find this incident terribly ironic- in that where it happened, there are probably no less than hundreds of women of all ages, walking around in swimsuits / bikinis that expose more of the breast than what a mother breastfeeding her baby would show.  Of course, I don’t know how much of her breast was ‘exposed’ but I wonder if the lady who was so offended, asked all the women who were in skimpy swimsuits to cover up as well? 

According the Elitch spokesperson, (from 9News story http://www.9news.com/news/article.aspx?storyid=72030) she said the “park allows breastfeeding, but they ask breastfeeding mother’s to respect the comfort level of other guests of the park.”

The lady organizing the nurse in, Tirzha Zabarauskas, said in respond to this statement, “I am sure being at a water park there were other women in bikinis who were not asked to cover themselves up or leave the park.”

I have to agree with her on this point- if you have been swimming lately at any public swimming place, the swimsuits really don’t leave much to the imagination- between tops that barely, and I mean, barely cover anything, and thong bottoms, it seems ridiculous that someone would have the audacity to complain that a NURSING MOTHER, FEEDING HER BABY, was offensive.

How many other boobs did this lady see, flopping around in skimpy bathing suits that day?  Did she complain about those?  Did she complain about the butts hanging out of the thong bikini bottoms?  Did the guards and police, stop the people in reveling bathing suits, and tell them to use some “common sense” and cover up?

It is just pure ignorance that in this day and age, with all the benefits of breastfeeding, that a nursing mother gets treated this way, especially when it is in a water park, with hundreds, probably thousands of other women in swimming suits, no doubt exposing some part of their breasts.

Our society doesn’t have a problem with showing breasts when it is in a commercial, walking down the street, at Hooters, or at the beach, pool, or water park- the problem is when a woman chooses to use her breasts for what they were designed for- feeding her baby.  For some reason, we have a huge problem with that, and have to resort to making the mother feel bad, dirty, ashamed, and like she did something wrong.

I hope Elitch Gardens works with this mother to ensure this never happens again to another nursing mother.  There is a nurse-in scheduled at the park tomorrow, but after reading some comments from Jennifer, at The Lactivist blog, she has some good reasons, why nurse-in’s probably aren’t the most effective first steps to take. 

In the meantime, the only thing I think we can all do to make a difference is nurse, nurse, nurse, in public.  The more people see us doing what nature intended for our babies, the more it will become more common place, and hopefully these incidents will stop happening. 

Comments

  1. Auntie Mara says:

    I saw this on the news last night and I got so mad I was up longer than I should have been. As a new mom, I’ve had a really hard time adjusting to nursing in public. I ALWAYS try to cover up but when it’s 90 degrees outside, forgive me if I don’t want to cover up my sweaty baby with a blanket so YOU won’t be uncomfortable.

    I was out last night w/ some friends and we were on the patio and I was sitting in the corner (which I always try to do now so I’ll be less inconspicious) and I mentioned that it was getting close to time to feed the baby and one of my friends’ husband said, “Feed the baby…like with no bottles?” and then he looked really freaked out. Just that one innocent comment really pissed me off…yes. I’m going to feed my baby without bottles and tainted water and incomplete nutrition.

    His wife shussed him, but it still made me feel really uncomfortable. So when it was time to feed her, I tried to cover up but we were both really hot and she was screaming and arching…which is fun for everyone around. Thankfully, my SIL lives close by so she walked me to her house so I could sit and feed her in the airconditioning without anyone else around.

    The thing I don’t get about people who don’t want you to breastfeed is this: IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT, DON’T LOOK AT ME!!!! The lady at Elitches obviously had a swimsuit that had to be taken down to feed her baby. Now, if it was me, I’d cover up the other boob (I’m assuming she didn’t) but it was 90 degrees yesterday and I’m sure she didn’t want baby to get all sweaty and mad. I purposely bought a swimsuit that I could leave up while nursing for the summer, but that’s because I am very sensitive to what others think…but again, DON’T LOOK if you don’t like it.

    There is an article in Parents magazine this month about breastfeeding in public. They did a pictoral documentation about a mom trying to feed her baby throughout the day. There’s a pic of her feeding him on the toilet, (which I have had to do and it’s the nastiest thing ever), and on a park bench w/ a teenager taking a pic of her on his cell phone!!! Then she’s on the floor at a store like Target by the books because she figured it was less crowded there. (I’ve used the changing rooms there, not the floor). The title of the article is, “Why Are Women Who Breastfeed in Public Made To Feel Like They Are Doing Something Wrong?”

    I would love to join some sort of action to get laws made up that REQUIRE all public establishments to have changing tables and a discreet chair/area for breastfeeding moms. I’d “be more discreet” in public if it was made available to me, if that’s what they want. I don’t want to show my boobs to the world either…but again, DON’T LOOK!!!

  2. i agree with you and the irony of the whole situation. i hate how puritanical our society is. after all, breasts are purely sexual objects, not meant for feeding babies. *groan* *eye roll*

    i can see how a nurse-in can be effective if it’s properly planned AND if the mom (in this case, kristin) approves of it. (from what i gather on MDC, she didn’t even know it was being organized at the last minute.) after all, anything that happens now with elitch’s will come back on her since she was the one who was harassed.

    i think there are proper channels to achieve the longterm effects and changes we desire.

    it’s easy to get all fired up (and i did and still am), but i’m trying to learn that sometimes patience is the best way to go to accomplished what we really want.

    and to mara, i’m so sorry that happened to you. it sucks that we are often meant to feel like second class citizens for something as basic as feeding our babies. i hope your friends will support your desire to feed your baby the best thing possible for her. maybe you can help educate them as to why you’ve chosen to breastfeed. some people, especially if all they’ve been around is formula-fed babies, really don’t know any better.

    and yes, i agree – if you don’t like it, don’t look.

  3. p.s. like your new layout, h. :)

  4. I agree with you. VERY ironic!! You see women’s underwear and midriffs, not to mention cleavage and all the rest all the time. THAT is offensive. I wanted to jump through the TV and strangle the Elitch’s rep when I saw him on TV saying that sure you can BF but you need to make sure you don’t make people uncomfortable. Ugh! Mara said it exactly right – they can look away. Looking is a choice!

  5. It’s sad that in today’s world, women are berating other women on breastfeeding. I’ve encountered moms who don’t want to breastfeed discounting moms who do. As a first time mom who breastfeed, I find it upseting when moms who formula feed their babies (for whatever reasons) try to talk me out of breastfeeding. They start on how much more “easier” it is to just mix formula, how convenient and how much more “acceptable” it is to formula feed.

    Shame on that woman who complained about the breastfeeding mom. Wait until it’s her turn…

  6. I agree with all of you ladies!

    Thank you Mara, for making the point, if you don’t like it, LOOK AWAY!!! I meant to put that in the post, but forgot. I also LOVE your idea of working towards laws that would make every public place having a nursing room for breastfeeding mothers- (see my next post).

    Jackie- I like to point out to people who say formula is so much easier, as a reason NOT to breastfeed, that they have to take bottles, nipples, formula, and water- HOW is that ‘easier’ than just having your baby nurse? Good for you, for not letting them talk you out of it- you are giving your baby the BEST nutrition, and you should be proud!

    I agree 100% with you- with all these people making comments, like Mara encounters, or who think we should just cover up- just wait until they have a baby, they want to nurse- it is quite different being on the other side.

  7. Unfortunately the press and public have an attention span of about the time it took you to read this sentence.

    “Patience” is nice when planning a large event, or when waiting for a response from the mother. But in this case, the cameras and the press were rolling- so Patience=Inaction.

    I went to the nurse in, I’m GLAD that I did, and I didn’t need Kristen’s permission. I went as a result of reading Elitch Garden’s statement about breastfeeding, which I feel is incredibly off base (and illegal).

    I agree wholeheartedly with you- nursing in public is a wonderful way to promote breastfeeding- and those who attended the “nurse in” were doing just that. Nursing in public. Not speaking on behalf of anyone else, just nursing our babies.

    You don’t need permission slips or patience for that kind of activism.

    PS: Love the new layout!

  8. i am a 26 yr old breastfeeding mom of a 3 yr old and a 2 mnth old and i wanted to cry after reading your story, first off, let me applaud you on excercising your right to bf in public, sadly i must say that i have yet to do so, outside of my car or ..yuck..the bathroom, but after reading so many stories like this one i think i will come out of hiding and feed my hungry baby whereever it is most convenient and not worry what anyone thinks, afterall, anyone so insecure as to be offended by a bf woman needs to stay home as to not be exposed to the Really offensive things they are sure to see and hear, bf is a beautiful, natural act that any person with “common sense”would respect.

  9. Sheila,

    Hi, and welcome to my blog.

    I couldn’t agree with you more. You should nurse whenever and wherever you have the need. Maybe if you start “small” so to speak, it will be easier. I actually found it pretty easy and inconspicuous to nurse in restaurant booths- the tables are usually a bit higher and you can support your arm with the wall, etc. You don’t have to start off NIP in a crowded Starbucks, in the middle of the room unless of course, that is what you want. :-) I think if you try it, you will find it is pretty easy, and *usually* no one makes a big deal out of it. I don’t like putting a blanket over baby’s head, but it may come in handy if you need a little extra help covering your stomach, etc. I support anyone using anything that makes NIP easier.

    Keep us updated- let us know how it goes if you try it. :-)

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Oh, The Irony-Breastfeeding in Public-UPDATE! Here is the latest regarding Kristen, the mother, who was asked this week to “use common sense” and cover up, by park… [...]

  2. [...] once they make the decision to breastfeed. Women have been asked to cover up or leave restaurants, water parks, airplanes, and stores when they try to give their baby what’s “best.” Maternity [...]

  3. [...] times have you heard about a mom being told to cover up her nursing child on an airplane or at an amusement park or at a store or at a restaurant or even asked to leave or had the police called on her? How many [...]

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